Recently, Roger A. Grimes of InfoWorld posted “Browser Security Wars” in his Security Advisor blog. For several months, Grimes tested the five most popular Web browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Safari. His conclusion is no surprise:
So which one is guaranteed to make your Internet browsing experience perfectly safe?
None, of course. If you have the need for high security on a computer you manage, don’t allow it to surf on the public Web. It’s that simple. Internet browsers are highly complex pieces of software interacting with millions of combinations of highly complex active content and programming code, much of it not so friendly. There is no “super secure” browser.
Not exactly a great revelation; however, there is one surprising discovery: In Grimes’s testing, none of the browsers allowed malware to silently install as long as they were running on fully patched systems. Instead, most of them relied on tricking the user into intentionally running an infected executable:
Almost all the malicious Web sites I came across offered an executable to install, usually in the form of bogus anti-malware software or some sort of content player. In order to be infected, I had to intentionally run the offered executable — not always, but nearly so. There was a smattering of sites that tried to use malformed or mismatched content to trick the third-party software into silently executing code, but it was uncommon; and when my system was fully patched, it never silently succeeded. [Emphasis added]
You’ll find a comprehensive rundown of security features and faults of all the aforementioned browsers in InfoWorld’s special report, “InfoWorld Test Center’s guide to browser security.”]]>
Among the bugs squashed in Opera 9.61 was a stored cross site scripting (XSS) vulnerability that allowed attackers to view victims’ browsing history. That attack is no longer possible, but now researchers have discovered an even more serious exploit that’s based on the same weakness.
Until Opera releases version 9.62, which should be “very, very soon” according to Opera spokesman Thomas Ford, your best bet is to disable iFrames and turn off scripting. Open opera:config and select Extensions|iFrames. Change the setting from “1″ to “0.” Similarly, change Extensions|Scripting from “1″ to “0.”
Bear in mind that the above temporary workaround is going to break a lot of sites that use scripting. It would be simpler if Opera had some way to designate “trusted sites” (or a plug-in like NoScript), but I’m not aware of any way to do this. Hit the comments and let me know if there’s a better workaround (I haven’t used Opera since my conversion to Firefox four years ago).]]>